Ponty denied victory at the end of a 67-point thriller
After a few days of inclement Welsh weather, Joseph Scrivens kicked off this Welsh Premiership match against RGC with Sardis Road bathed in glorious sunshine. In a match that yoyo-ed back and forth, the lead changed hands eleven times and it was Ponty that were denied at the death.
The visitors made their mark first with a little more than two minutes on the clock. Ponty threw into a lineout on their 10-metre line, it was over-thrown and RGC were the quickest to mop up the loose ball, broke through the Ponty midfield and scrum-half Efan Jones, in support, came on the switch and scored under the posts. His namesake Dion knocked over the conversion and the North Walians were 7-0 up.
From the restart Ponty showed plenty of determination to get themselves back into the match straight away and did after a few minutes. RGC were penalised for a high tackle on Tommy Morgan and Joseph Scrivens kicked the resulting penalty, 3 points to 7.
10 minutes into the match and despite RGC’s early lead, Ponty were the more dominant side in the opening exchanges and were doing their utmost to work their way into good field positions – whilst doing this the home side were awarded a couple of penalties and with advantage being played during the second award, Dale Stuckey was fed down the left-hand side but the danger was snuffed out by RGC. However, referee Elliot Mayor brought Ponty back for the penalty and Scrivens kicked his second penalty-goal of the match, 6-7 after quarter of an hour.
A couple of minutes later saw the move of the match at that point, just inside the RGC half. Joseph Scrivens slid a lovely weighted kick in behind the RGC defensive line, the onrushing Tommy Morgan gathered the ball, took it on and fed the supporting Joel Raikes who finished from 20 metres. Scrivens kicked the conversion and Ponty had the lead for the first time at 13 points to 7.
Unfortunately for the Ponty faithful, the buzz around Sardis Road was short-lived when virtually from the restart RGC managed to regain possession and worked their way into Ponty’s half of the field. At the ruck, scrum-half Efan Jones scanned around, saw Ponty didn’t have any pillars in place at the fringes of the ruck and sniped in for a try from just outside the Ponty 22. Dion Jones kicked another simple conversion and Ponty’s lead evaporated.
Dion Jones was unsuccessful with a penalty attempt before Ponty nearly scored another pearler of a try, only for it to be chalked off. Attacking from just inside the RGC half, Scrivens took the ball flat to the gain-line and fed Niko Matawalu who came steaming in off his wing. The Fijian flyer fed fullback Iestyn Griffiths down the left-hand side touchline and he kicked back infield and it was a foot race for the bouncing ball with a potential try in the offing. Joel Raikes looked to have won the race to get the 4th scrum-half try of the afternoon but after a lengthy chat via the officials comms system, the try wasn’t awarded.
A couple of minutes later, just after half an hour on the clock Ponty did get themselves back ahead in the contest when Joseph Scrivens kicked his third penalty to make it 16-14. The lead changed hands yet again a few minutes later when Dion Jones kicked a penalty of his own, 17-16 to the Gogs. The score then became 19-17 to Ponty two minutes later when Scrivens’ excellent long-range penalty swung the lead back Ponty’s way.
Play entered first half injury time and RGC worked their way up field and entered Ponty’s 22, the home side turned over possession and paid the price for throwing caution to the wind when perhaps they should have just played safe and kicked the ball to touch. Scrivens threw the ball wide and it didn’t go to hand, but was eventually gathered by Jordan Howells. However Ponty were turned over at the breakdown and after a few simple passes Dion Jones dotted down in the far right hand corner. He converted his own try superbly from the touchline and RGC had a 5-point lead at the break as result.
HALF TIME – Pontypridd 19-24 RGC
RGC’s Dion Jones kicked off the second half and if anyone inside the stadium thought the tempo they witnessed in the first half was about to slow down, they were mistaken. From the kick off Ponty countered from deep and a superb side-step and break from Iestyn Griffiths saw him glide through the RGC defence and into their half. He fed the supporting Daf Rotie who carried the ball inside the RGC 22, Ponty set up the play, spun the ball left but couldn’t quite get Dale Stuckey away for the try that the attack deserved.
However it was only temporary respite for the visitors when, after they cleared their lines, Ponty attacked again but down the right hand side on this occasion. Jordan Howells grubbered the ball through and it bounced up perfectly into Tommy Morgan’s hands and he crossed for the try. Dale Stuckey took over kicking duties following Joseph Scrivens’ half-time withdrawal through injury and he slotted the conversion.
The match then resumed with an all too familiar story – the side in the lead relinquishing their advantage almost immediately. Ponty couldn’t gather the RGC restart cleanly, gave away a penalty and Dion Jones put the visitors back ahead 27 points to 26.
As was accustomed by now, Ponty went back into the lead a few minutes later via Dale Stuckey’s boot before RGC scrum-half Efan Jones would claim a hat-trick of tries. Turning down a more than kickable 3-pointer paid off when, from the base of a scrum, he walked over virtually unopposed to claim his third score of the match. The extra two points were missed and the RGC lead stood at three points – 32-29.
As the match approached the hour mark proceedings naturally slowed down, mainly due to injuries. Alex Lloyd, who replaced Scrivens during half-time was forced off and a little later Mitch Barnard who came onto replace Daf Rotie was also replaced because of a knock.
RGC extended their lead shortly after play restarted, Dion Jones kicked a penalty for a 35-29 advantage.
Just after the hour mark RGC were reduced to 14 men when replacement prop Christian Hone was binned for deliberately infringing within 10 metres when Ponty tapped a penalty quickly. Dale Stuckey stepped up, put over the penalty-goal and Ponty were back to within 3 points. Stuckey, now in the outside half position played very well directing the home side around the pitch in the time that remained.
The match now entered the final 10 minutes and it was RGC that initially enjoyed a spell of sustained pressure and territory in Ponty’s 22, but strong defence kept the away side out and Ponty eventually won a penalty from a scrum. Stuckey put in a great touch-finder from the penalty but Ponty’s misfiring lineout initially cost them a chance of getting into a position to launch a match winning assault.
The clock went red, the 80 minutes had elapsed and it was still anyone’s match at this point and both teams were continuing to give away penalties.
After Ponty lacked accuracy at another lineout, RGC kicked the ball out on the full. Ponty were awarded a penalty shortly after and Stuckey put the ball out dead on the RGC 5-metre line and then the drama started. Ponty threw in, Parker was hit in the air before coming to ground and Ponty had another penalty. At this point the home side could have taken a kickable 3 points but were determined to get the win their determination deserved. Ponty threw in again at the lineout, flapped at it but manged to gather possession and were pummelling the RGC try-line. After many phases and with the line in sight they were penalised for an offence at the breakdown and that was that.
It was an entertaining afternoon between two sides that wanted to throw the ball around, but ultimately it was another narrow loss at home for Pontypridd this season.
FULL TIME – Pontypridd 32-25 RGC (15/4/2023)
15. Iestyn Griffiths. 14. Niko Matawalu. 13. Tommy Morgan. 12. Jordan Howells. 11. Dale Stuckey. 10. Joseph Scrivens (Alex Lloyd, later replaced by Sam Hayman). 9. Joel Raikes (Rory Harries).
1. Ben Stephens (Morgan Bosanko). 2. Nathan Huish (Rob Jones). 3. Tom Harper (Garyn Daniel). 4. Kristian Parker (c). 5. Joe Miles. 6. Cai James. 7. Daf Rotie (Mitch Barnard, later replaced by James Murphy). 8. Aled Ward.
Subs: 16. Rob Jones. 17. Morgan Bosanko. 18. Garyn Daniel. 19. Mitch Barnard. 20. James Murphy. 21. Rory Harries. 22. Alex Lloyd. 23. Sam Hayman
Tries: Joel Raikes, Tommy Morgan
Conversions: Joseph Scrivens, Dale Stuckey
Penalties: Joseph Scrivens x 4, Dale Stuckey x 2
15. Afon Bagshaw (c). 14. Rhys Tudor. 13. Danny Cross. 12. Rhys Hamilton. 11. Matthew Buchanan. 10. Dion Jones. 9. Efan Jones.
1. Jessie Williams. 2. Rhodri King. 3. Pedr Jones. 4. Billy McQueeney. 5. Owain Williams. 6. Sam Williams. 7. Elis Evans. 8. Jordan Jones.
Subs: 16. Osian Burt. 17. Christian Hone. 18. Joe Simpson. 19. Bryn Jones. 20. Tal Taylor. 21. Ollie Wynn. 22. Sam Rogers. 23. Sam Stoddard
Tries: Efan Jones x 3, Dion Jones
Conversions: Dion Jones x 3
Penalties: Dion Jones x 3
Yellow Card: Christian Hone
Referee: Elliot Mayor
Assistant referees: 1 – Carwyn Williams, 2 – Dai Cambourne
Golden Bob Man of the Match: Ben Stephens
WRU Man of the Match: Aled Ward